Hot ‘Lanta; Midnight Rider; Leave My Blues at Home; Bag End; River’s Gonna Rise; Soulshine (Alecia Chekur vox, Jukes Horns); The Weight (Alecia Chekur vox, Jukes Horns); Black Hearted Woman
Melissa; Rain; Dusk Till Dawn; You Don’t Love Me; Blind Willie McTell (Juke Horns); Into the Mystic (Juke Horns); Jessica; encore: Southbound (Juke Horns)
You might expect the last midweek show prior to the final, climactic weekend to be something of a palette-cleanser. In this case you would be right. There were moments of full-on intensity, but overall, some pacing issues rendered this show maybe not the best of the run. Of course, we’re comparing the band to themselves here, and my three buddies who came with me to the show, their only one of the year, were all dutifully blown away (afterward, when they asked me to rate the show and I gave it a B, they were stunned.)
With no ado at all the band launches into “Hot ‘Lanta.” Gregg darts across the organ, then Derek runs the voodoo down, and Warren plays full round lines. “Midnight Rider” is the usual just-so story. On “Leave My Blues at Home” Oteil swings like his back ain’t got no bone. A nice drum break, then Derek and Warren do the molten mambo, passing a single furious solo back and forth between the two of them.
Next, the sour overture, then the chiming intro to “Bag End.” Warren’s guitar cries as it spills out over the sides of the melody. Next up, the drums start up with a big bam boom, Warren eases into the back door of what sounds like a slow version of “Who’s Been Talkin’,” but ends up being “River’s Gonna Rise.” Warren whips things into a frenzy, and finishes the song with a nice vocal vamp over a cool, simmering outro… but it is the second song in a row in which most of the house is sitting down, and that has brought the energy in the room down.
The Juke Horns come on for their final appearance of the run (but the first for me), joined by Alecia Chekur of Warren’s solo band joins on vocals for “Soulshine.” Derek souls it up, then Warren wails about adversity with the horns. A sax solo, then Derek testifies, then Warren and Derek trade the happy “Soulshine” licks. Everyone stays on for “The Weight.” Warren takes the first verse, Alesha belts the hell out of the second, Warren offers up a sweet solo and then sings the third verse. Alesha takes the fourth verse, then Derek tears it up and Warren and Alicia together sing the final verse.
On “Black Hearted Woman” Warren wrings the neck of that poor Les Paul till it begs for mercy. During the “Other One” section Derek flashes his fingers furiously across the strings. The song is big stupid fun and a highlight; and the set ends at 9:53, a late start notwithstanding it has been a long first set.
“Melissa” is a lovely beginning to the second set; on the outro, Oteil rolls off a countermelody to Warren’s solo. On “Rain,” Derek rains down some pretty, unhurried slide; I thought maybe they tripped up a bit on the mid-section solos… “Dusk TIll Dawn” continues to get better every time they play it. Tonight it is a dreamy take, even as Warren comes up from underneath and heats it to a midnight blue. “You Don’t Love Me” gets everyone in the house back up on their feet. In the middle of the song the band pulls to stop, Warren peels off a long, stretched note, and as he holds it, the band tiptoes gently back underneath him, until they’ve whipped back up a full attack on the song. It is a lovely moment, and the finish is large.
The jukes are back on for “Blind Willie McTell,” which they make especially mournful and elegiac. Then a lovely “Into the Mystic,” still with the horns. Derek’s ringing lines emerge from Gregg’s organ swells, building into a ringing solo, then Warren, then Derek, riding the brassy waves of the horns. Warren’s return vocals “When that foghorn whistle blows…” are especially beautiful.
The horns depart and the band rolls into “Jessica.” Warren peels off clear, ringing lines. Deep into the middle section, the familiar “Jessica” riffs cascade out over a Marc-driven rhythm, but out of phase from where they usually are, so the effect is as if they are teasing “Jessica” during “Jessica.” THen hard into the twin licks, then they milk the ending for all it’s worth. THe horns are back on for the encore, which of course is “Southbound.”